The Here After / Efterskav
- Domestic Premiere: 20 November 2015
- International Premiere: France (Cannes Film Festival) – 16 May 2015
The debut feature from Sweden’s Magnus von Horn, with photography by Ida’s DOP.
Gently paced, the film sits us back from the drama in a way to make us come to our own conclusions about who’s the bad guy.
Beautifully modern Scandinavian in its minimalist style and social themes, The Here After is a stunning debut film about a very serious topic.
The Here After is controlled, minimalist and icy cold in its careful display of the aftermath of adolescent crime. The debut feature by Swedish director Magnus von Horn, the film stars Swedish pop star Ulrik Munther and screened at Cannes, Toronto, Stockholm and has been released in Swedish cinemas.
The Here After follows John (Munther), a slim, tall and pixie-faced teenager who has been released from an institution back into his fathers care. They live on a farming property along with John’s younger brother Filip, and it becomes clear that there is an emotional disconnect amongst the family. This is echoed between John’s father and grandfather, and in an interesting scene in which the grandfather would rather shoot a sick dog than take it to the vet, we get a glimpse into an inherently mean streak that runs through the family.
The close-knit rural community in which John lives is cruelly reluctant to let him back in. John chooses to return to his old school, but not before long the other students are rebelling and it becomes clear that John has done something to ostracise them. However, von Horn doesn’t explain what it was that John did until halfway through the film. Until then, we are left seeing this quiet teenager being ruthlessly tormented by his peers, and in a way we see him as the victim.
The film works well in its minimalist styling, with Director of Photography Lukasz Zal (known for his work on Ida) establishing a rigorous style that is distant and restraining, often shooting through doorways and closed glass doors that obscure dialogue. Along with von Horn, Zal works to force the audience to watch as a distant spectator, unable to step in and assist – almost leaving John to fend for himself. Ulrik Munther appears effortless as John, and truly breaks out as the star of the film – his controlled movements and hesitations work beautifully alongside the controlled camera pacing.
The film uses many long takes which work in favour to the films story, which is based on actual stories of crimes committed by adolescents in volatile relationships. Von Horn has previously looked at the topic in his short films Echo (2010) and Without Snow (2012), and in The Here After he pushes the cruelness to the extreme. The film echoes the styling and themes of Thomas Vinterberg’s The Hunt (2012), though in The Here After it is revealed that the protagonist is guilty.
As with many contemporary Scandinavian films, the ending is a non-resolution, but it gives the viewers haunting images and thoughts to take away with them. Overall, The Here After is beautifully crafted, patient and real in its portrayal of a complex topic.
For a little extra, here’s one of Ulrik’s songs: